The people of Balochistan constitute the truest example of the democratic function that can be found in any fledgling democracy. As a province with a vast and valuable reserve of natural resources, much of it is yet to be utilised, perhaps its greatest resource is its population. A rugged and courageous people embodying the indomitable spirit of the region, they have stood time and again to face a variety of challenges and obstacles. Anyone fortunate enough to be entrusted with the office of chief minister for such a diverse body of people, must first recognise that he can no more hold one alliance dearer than another than have a favourite child. The need of the hour is a comprehensive and cohesive plan to deliver basic amenities to every citizen, in every corner of the province.
Over the past couple of months, the Balochistan government has initiated a series of seminars to involve members of the general public in an endeavour that affects them more than any other act of government: the formulation of the budget. The evolution of these sessions resulted in this month’s budget seminar. Government officials, high-ranking army officers, members of the media, and representatives of the general public came together to discuss concerns relating to the province’s development. Information and analyses were shared regarding the allocation of resources in previous years, and the public weighed in on the strengths and weaknesses of these allocations. The rationale was that a well thought-out plan by the provincial government, which had the support of the people, would be the optimal way to utilise the support that the federal government had been scrupulous and conscientious about offering to its largest province.
The inclusive nature of such discourse dovetailed nicely with what has long been one of the province’s most major concerns, its education system. Fine-tuning the government’s approach to both development and monitoring in this area, Balochistan hopes to further develop and strengthen institutions of higher learning in every area of the province. The aim is to not only provide the citizens of Balochistan with viable, high-quality options for educating their children in their own province, but to establish some of Pakistan’s finest institutions of higher learning, creating attractive options for students from all over the country. Achieving this is just one of the ways that Balochistan aims to provide for the province’s disenfranchised youth. These young people are a matter of great importance for the provincial government, as it attempts to cater to their unmet needs and to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in every hardship. The province’s youth are not only a vital resource of but are also united with the government in calling Balochistan their home. As such, the government sees this as a highly opportune time for the suffering seen by the province to come to an end, and peaceful progress to take place.
The government’s efforts to provide clean water to a large area speak of its indomitable will. In the near future, with Gwadar port becoming operational and with the advent of the CPEC, Balochistan can expect to see a massive influx of economic activity. The government is now dedicating its resources to preparing both its infrastructure and people to absorb this activity. The creation of industrial zones, the building of a network of motorways, and the training of a skilled workforce are at the forefront of the recognised needs of the people of Balochistan.
In keeping with this movement towards a higher standard of living, Balochistan is attempting to improve the quality and accessibility of its healthcare. This is vital if Pakistan’s largest province is ever to become entirely self-sufficient in a manner that would guarantee its inhabitants the same quality of life that other provinces enjoy. This vision is one that the Balochistan government feels it is honour-bound to attain for its people. Never before has the province been in such a unique position of opportunity in terms of attaining these goals. With the military’s support and that of development partners, both local and international, Balochistan stands poised to take its most significant steps towards progress, to date.
Balochistan has yet to take full advantage of its large mines of gold reserves, a valuable safety net for any economy. With large reserves of coal, gas and minerals, and the potential to generate solar and wind energy, the province’s inherent local wealth is undeniable. It is in the unique position to leverage these resources to cater to the needs of its own population and simultaneously, to be able to contribute significantly to Pakistan’s economic wellbeing. Additionally, the extensive rangelands found in the province are capable of supporting a large number of livestock, creating the potential for an international market for wool, and a thriving local market for dairy and meat.
Balochistan accounts for about 745kms of Pakistan’s 1,050km coastline. Its ports, too, account for a great deal of its measurable economic potential. The province is home to a booming fisheries industry as well as trade opportunities that multiple ports can offer. The provincial government is also well aware of the inadequacies in the present transportation system and plans are underway to launch buses as well as begin work on improving the rail transit system. This will help to upgrade the transport system within cities and also provide additional facilities for the movement of cargo.
Yet another area of major concern for the provincial leadership is to work towards a strategy that would help to raise incomes by providing employment opportunities to the labour force. The success of such a strategy would be influenced to a great extent by the security situation prevailing in the region. The participation of the workforce in the development of the province will also automatically contribute towards improving the security situation. In order to do that, it will be essential to mobilise the resource base of the province as well as train the human resource and develop infrastructure.
In the undertaking of these endeavours, the Balochistan government is unified with its constituents, and is strongly of the opinion that the advancement of Pakistan’s largest province is sure to spell success for the whole nation.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2016.
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